I enjoyed this book greatly. Before, I knew of Capp as a talented storyteller and shameless self-promoter who sank into embarrassing old-fart-hood, savaging the younger generations without exhibiting an ounce of personal perspective. The fact that he sought out John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their honeymoon bed-in so he could hurl a few carefully-crafted zingers for the benefits of a nearby camera said it all, I imagined.
Of course, I didn't know the half of it. The outright dishonesty with which he pursued success, the cruelty he inflicted upon those around him, and most shocking, the revelation that he became a repeat sex offender in late life...it all paints a picture that will make it difficult to still respect the work.
Nonetheless, "Li'l Abner" was exceptional stuff. I wish the book had dug a little deeper into Capp's creation. It doesn't speak much about Capp's process or his attitudes towards storytelling. Granted, this is a book about the man and not about the strip, but it seems as though the strip can tell us a lot about the man. For instance, Capp continued to write rough every strip, and finish and ink every head...despite the fact that it was common practice for the creator of a successful strip to hand over production to assistants and focus on the business end. For another, he had several assistants who worked for Capp for years and years. Was this loyalty? What did they like about Capp, or the work, that kept them in the same studio for so many years?
I was also surprised when I got near the end of the book and learned that he'd been taking antidepressants for many years. When did Capp start seeking psychiatric treatment, and why? Was he himself concerned about his own mental state, or was he pushed by others?
This is an excellent biography, as far as it goes. It does, however, leave some opportunities for future historians. There's a certain arm's-length distance from the subject that's occasionally quite palpable.